Dawn Colclasure's Blog

Author and poet Dawn Colclasure

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Print vs. online publication

I have noticed something: A lot of my writing credits are Web site URLs. It seems that since I started writing for the Internet in 2002, I haven't stopped. I have had articles and poetry published in newspapers, magazines and, most recently, an anthology, but for the most part, almost all the writing work I've done has been published online.

Does this have something to do with some kind of subconscious attempt to save a tree? Or am I just so smitten with this Internet thing that I have sided myself with writing for the Web and not so much for print?

I think it's neither.

The reason? One thing I've noticed in getting published in newspapers and magazines is that, more often than not, I don't get a contributor's copy, even when one is promised. There's one magazine I had an essay published in, but the editor told me I would have to buy it if I wanted a copy. Another editor went MIA when I asked her if she'd kindly send me the promised contributor's copy after my essay ran in her magazine. Never mind that it also ran online; I wanted the hard copy of the magazine. There's this euphoric sense that happens EVERY TIME I open a magazine to see my name in there as a byline.

This unfortunate trend isn't one I've had issues with before. In the past, editors happily sent me contributor's copies. One editor even sent me five copies of the magazine my essay ran in. (This made me overlook their delay in sending payment for the essay.) But it seems that, more and more, I'm running into magazines that just don't send the copies out.

Even the newspaper I write for has run into some bumps in getting contributor's copies to me. (I still mourn never getting to see an article I did about someone in the U.K. who has done some impressive work in deaf education.) Part of me is ready to demand, "What's the deal??" After all, it's not like I can mosey into my local bookstore and pick up the issue. Chances are, I'm clued in the work was published by the time that particular issue is no longer being sold.

But the other part of me knows all too well the very likely reason this is happening: Money. I've been in magazine publishing and I KNOW how costly it can be to print 100 or so issues, especially if you're a magazine without advertising revenue. (I hate advertisements so that's why I never included them.) But for the magazines that have a comfortable financial budget? Well, I just think that refusing to offer contributor copies is just really bad form.

I'm not one to whine or complain, but having that print clip to show to the next editor I pitch to really helps. Sometimes we are asked for clips when it comes to proving we're the right person to write about this topic or that topic. Sometimes it takes actually SHOWING we have that credit under our belt in order to break into the glossies. This is why having that contributor's copy is a must for writers, whether freelancing or not. We need that "paper proof" we were published in this magazine or that newspaper.

Besides, like the newspaper I write for, the Web site isn't always current. Chances are it can be months or even years before we'll see that an article or essay ran at a certain time. Then we can finally have our slice of the magazine's pie.

Another reason why this is an issue with me? It has to do with my contacts. Not only do I guard my sources with a fierceness but I also respect them. They often ask if I will send them a copy of the article or a link to where they can read the article after I am finished interviewing them. They need this for publicity, something which I can understand and empathize with. Three authors I reviewed books for have used blurbs from my reviews as part of their publicity. The same applies to people I interview for articles. One program I wrote about for SIGNews, the Global Deaf Connection, has the added promotional tool of my article supporting their efforts. Meanwhile other articles are either lost or never recognized -- and my contacts lose out on this chance to use the article for their benefit, as well.

I may no longer be working as a freelance writer but because I want to build up my credibility as an essayist in order to back up a collection of essays on deaf parenting I am shopping around, not getting the contributor's copy when my essays are published leaves me a little steamed.

I myself am guilty of this, though. The writers included in my MIDNIGHT OIL book have yet to receive their own copies. Well, some have it, but others don't. Bless their hearts, they have been more than patient with me in getting their copies to them. And fortunately, given my recent financial upgrading, I'll be able to do this very soon.

I don't know; maybe it's karma.

But this whole situation makes me think twice before I submit to a magazine again. Maybe I'm better off swallowing my pride and paying for a copy of the magazine my essay gets published in. And as for the newspaper? I can only ask my editor for updates on what got published when then update my C.V. accordingly. That seems to be the only solution for now.
At least with online publications, I can still print it out.